I remember reading somewhere that the people you surround yourself with are the ones who ultimately shape who you are, and who you will become. I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately and here I am, wide awake at one o’clock in the morning, and I’ve decided that I agree with that statement. Not only have the people in my life shaped the man that I have become, they have shaped the type of Christian that I have become as well…
Because of my wife, I will always err on the side of love. Through twenty-seven years she has continually shown a depth of strength, wisdom, and acceptance of all my faults and foibles that I can only hope and strive to show others.
She is not perfect, and neither am I. But, it is most often through our failings and limitations where love is able to shine the brightest. So I will always err on the side of love, because everyone will fail us at some point, everyone has limitations, and love shouldn’t count either.
Because of my daughter, I will always err on the side of empathy. She is, simply by being born the perfect little imperfection that she is, the very definition of who the world would deem as “less than”. Through no fault of her own she will never measure up to the world’s ever climbing standards of success, of intelligence, or of beauty. But, in my eyes, she will always be strong, always be beautiful, always be important, and she will always matter. And, I make sure to tell her that. Every. Single. Day.
I tell her because she needs to hear it. Everyone needs to hear it.
I tell her because she deserves to hear it. Everyone deserves to hear it.
And yet, from the world, she never will.
So I will always err on the side of empathy, because everyone, in their own way, is beautiful, everyone is important, and everyone matters.
Because of my father, I will always err on the side of skepticism, and a never-ending quest for understanding. For many years, my upbringing caused me to question who I am, it also caused me to question everything else, neither of which is, inherently, a bad thing. But it has taken me most of my life in order to come to peace with it all. And, though I am at peace, like everything else this peace has its scarcities and limitations. So I will always err on the side of skepticism and a never-ending quest for understanding, because asking questions is not a bad thing. Never. Ever. Ever. And curiosity, dialog, and a quest for understanding should always be encouraged (though, sadly, rarely is).
Finally, because of the wide spectrum of pastors I listen to and the books I read (“peripheral reading”, I call it) I will always err on the side of a thirst for knowledge, of context and insight, rather than a settling for blind acceptance—be that in the word from the pulpit, or the Word from Scripture.
Further, because of my friends, I will always err on the side of relationship. The God I believe in is a God of relationship. Jesus surrounded himself with his twelve, and more importantly, with his innermost three. He also sought out time to be alone…with Father and Spirit; because even in times of solitude, there is a need for a certain strength of fellowship.
All of these, plus many more left unmentioned and still more to discover, have shaped me into the man I am today, and built within me the faith and belief I hold. This is the sum total of who I am, though I also cling to the evolving mindset that, on any given issue, I could be very much wrong—even on the very existence of God—which merely causes these beliefs to be more valuable, and meaningful, if nothing else than by the amazing fragility of their reality.
The sum total of all this is what I currently call “wisdom”.
And, because of this wisdom, I will always err on the side of peace. An imperfect and fragile peace, yes, but a peace that I am, oddly, at peace with.
Addendum: I wrote this several days before the horrible events of Orlando. Even before the tragic death of Christina Grimmie. I’ve been trying to formulate a response, both to those events and to the devolving bickering of non-essential issues that once again rear their ugly heads on social media after every such tragedy. I will only say this, echoing a Facebook post that I placed the day following Orlando: I don’t care your stand on guns; I don’t care your stand on homosexuality; nor do I much care your stand on radical religion, Islam or Christian. Those people that died, and the many who died before them, and the ones who have died since (tragically, yes, there has been a “since”) were all, to a one, someone’s son, someone’s daughter, someone’s father, mother, brother, sister, lover, friend, and they deserve more, so much more, than the self-interested, self-centered rhetoric of “my guns”, “my religion”, “my political candidate”, of “lover the sinner, hate the sin” (which is not, in fact, biblical) or of any such “speaking the truth in love” (which Paul wrote in his version of an interdepartmental memo between Christians [i.e. Ephesians], and never intended for the world).
My Christian brothers and sisters, I plead with you, I beg you, we can do better. Having well-known national pastors and conservative political pundits “praying for the victims of Orlando” is a start; having Chic-fil-A serve sandwiches and tea to those donating blood for the victims is a start; and, make no mistake, I commend them all in their efforts. But again, I plead and beg you, just as I beg them, do not return in the coming weeks to whatever version of “speaking the truth in love” may whisper from your lips, or shout from your memes and, in doing so, marginalizes an entire community, culture, or people group. Which is what ultimately led to all of this crap in the first place.
We can do better, my friends. We must do better! It starts with me, and it starts with you. The world needs our display of Christ within the midst of brokenness, now more than ever. The world needs our acceptance. The world needs our love. Acceptance does not mean approval. And love does no harm (Romans 13:10) All of these sons and daughters and fathers and mothers and siblings and lovers and friends deserve nothing less.
Romans 12:14-21Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.